Glasgow School of Art destroyed
May 23, 2014 10:53 AM   Subscribe

The Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and recently voted Britain's favorite building of the past 175 years, has been devastated by fire. While the stone exterior of Mackintosh's greatest architectural masterpiece may survive, Mackintosh's interiors are presumed lost.
posted by scody (70 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite


posted by LionIndex at 10:56 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]

I was following this on Twitter this afters; it looks really shocking.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:56 AM on May 23


That's awful.
posted by drowsy at 11:02 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]

I have friends who work there as well as friends who are alumni.

The word is that the fire has damaged the west wing, but has been contained there. Fire fighters were deployed to rescue as much of the archives and various art works as they could. The library is gone which is the most iconic part of the GSA.

The annual GSA degree show was scheduled for 5pm tonight.
posted by kariebookish at 11:03 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I have the art book buildings of CRM on my desk RIGHT THE FUCK NOW I wanted to go back to Scotland to see THIS SPEFIFICALLY AHHHHHHH FUCK.

posted by The Whelk at 11:05 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

kariebookish, thanks for the update -- terrible to hear about the library, but good (well "good-ish") to hear that it seems to have been contained to that wing.
posted by scody at 11:05 AM on May 23

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on May 23

posted by Iridic at 11:07 AM on May 23

posted by Elly Vortex at 11:11 AM on May 23

Oh no. That building is definitely on my architectural bucket list. Terrible news, even though I'm sure the library was lovingly documented many times over the years, and will be rebuilt to a fanatical degree of exactitude.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:12 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

This is just ... fucking awful. Totally heartbreaking. I've just been watching the Reporting Scotland live coverage on BBC1, and am at a total loss; watching their video footage of flames cracking the windows was deeply upsetting (much more than I imagined it would be).

So glad nobody was killed or even injured, but the loss of the interior of the building (even if the structure itself is intact) is pretty much incalculable. All the artworks of the students who are supposed to be exhibiting their degree shows next month (today was the last day for degree show submissions), the amazing library, in all its geometrical wooden poetry, the archives, the countless works of art displayed along corridors I and so many others have walked each time we go to see an exhibition in the Mackintosh Gallery with its glorious sky-facing ceiling windows, in the upper centre of the building, all gone.

So many amazing artists were produced by this place, and they weren't all artists in the strict visual art sense; GSA was/is such a huge factor in the cultural life of the city; pick a band from Glasgow and if at least one of them didn't study there, then their flatmate/friend/wife/husband/etc did. And the meetings and collaborations and partnerships and experiments that the art school either directly brought about or facilitated ... I wouldn't want to start counting.

It's a minor (or maybe not) bit of the building but I always loved the double swing-doors, up five or six stairs, at the entrance - hinged in the middle, instead of at either side as you'd expect - one marked IN and one marked OUT on brass plates, and I always made sure I used the correct one.
posted by Len at 11:13 AM on May 23 [24 favorites]

Oh no, this is terrible... I studied there in 2000 on a writer's exchange program. What a special place, with so many memories soaked into its walls.
posted by selfnoise at 11:19 AM on May 23

Oh god, this is terrible. We were able to visit Glasgow very briefly a few years ago and only had time for a few CRM things (like the tea room). Oh, damn.
posted by rtha at 11:24 AM on May 23


" The library is gone which is the most iconic part of the GSA. "

That's horrible on top of the horrible.

posted by seyirci at 11:26 AM on May 23

This almost feels like one of those posts that gets deleted for GRAR because I feel moved to say something but have nothing to add but "fuck this terrible thing ."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:27 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]


To sort of vaguely appreciate it, the Guardian has a panoramic of the beautiful library.
posted by 26.2 at 11:29 AM on May 23 [12 favorites]

What Len said - we had a meetup there once :(
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:29 AM on May 23

This is heartbreaking. My best friend Mary is scooting up to Glasgow now from London (a few weeks earlier than she bargained for!) to console her daughter, who's huddled in a pub with her tutors and fellow students, all of them in total shock and trying to come to terms with the fact that all their degree show work has just gone up in flames. Awful.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 11:30 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]

Well, that's one way of getting out of a final submission ... (I kid, I kid).

Growing up in Glasgow, it was always just another red sandstone building. Only now, going back to visit, I'll admit it's a pretty striking building. Like most of CRM's designs, it's hardly the most practical; freezing in winter, and any seating hideously uncomfortable.
posted by scruss at 11:35 AM on May 23

posted by Foosnark at 11:35 AM on May 23

Oh dear.

posted by Chrysostom at 11:49 AM on May 23

posted by Mezentian at 12:06 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

Absolutely heartbroken. I've never been and had always planned to. And it's only 40 minutes away by train. What a loss.


So glad everyone got out safe, but what a loss.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:17 PM on May 23

Oh no.
I've always wanted to go there.
The library....
posted by Adridne at 12:22 PM on May 23



I've never been to Scotland and I really wanted to see this! Damn the fact that I'm not independently wealthy and I don't have unlimited means to travel.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:24 PM on May 23

Oh my god, no. I'm so sick over this. I studied there for a short time. I can't even think about never being able to sit in the library again. The floors, the chairs, all the gorgeous light fixtures everywhere... oh god.
posted by heyho at 12:25 PM on May 23

It's too bad that none of the links seem to contain any photography that adequately illustrate just what a great building it was...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 12:26 PM on May 23

Oh god... This place was number one on my bucket list. I feel heartsick from all the loss.
posted by chaoticgood at 12:29 PM on May 23

posted by dragonsi55 at 12:30 PM on May 23

littlejohnnyjewel: "It's too bad that none of the links seem to contain any photography that adequately illustrate just what a great building it was..."

The BBC recently did a documentary on the building and the new development opposite it called Facing up to Mackintosh. It's not on the iPlayer anymore but it wouldn't surprise me if the BBC rebroadcasts it after this.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:30 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

posted by Anitanola at 12:36 PM on May 23

posted by fiercecupcake at 12:42 PM on May 23

Buildings do not up and burn own on their own accord. I am wonder if it was faulty wiring, or possibly improper storage of flammable liquids. . .or just bad housekeeping in the wrong place.

I had no knowledge of this building before this morning, but what a terrible loss!
posted by Danf at 12:43 PM on May 23

Just gutted. Me and the building. Cried at work.

I did an in-depth undergrad research project on CRM and the GSoA. Pored over floor plans, read and wrote all about the construction process (it was built in 2 phases over the course of 12 years). I feel like I've been there and could find my way around, even never having set foot in the place.

It was on my list of places to visit, someday.

posted by mon-ma-tron at 12:44 PM on May 23

Danf: "Buildings do not up and burn own on their own accord. I am wonder if it was faulty wiring, or possibly improper storage of flammable liquids. . .or just bad housekeeping in the wrong place.

I had no knowledge of this building before this morning, but what a terrible loss!

The reports I've seen said that a projector in the basement exploded and was apparently near a quantity of expanded foam which went up like a rocket. The building was right in the end stages of preparation for the annual degree show, so it seems like this was a horrendous, horribly destructive accident.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:47 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

This is just too, too heartbreaking. This building was amazing. It's the kind of building that you never really leave because it stays with you—the smells, the soft light coming through those giant windows, the atmosphere of the old library.

Everything you see inside is styled, not just built. Mackintosh poured his soul into that place, and I swear you could feel it. It's the best building I've ever been inside of, and it's what got me interested in architecture and made me realize that buildings could also be profound works of art.

Making art inside of that building felt so right. It felt like what you were supposed to be doing.
posted by heyho at 12:48 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]

Happy Dave: The reports I've seen said that a projector in the basement exploded and was apparently near a quantity of expanded foam which went up like a rocket. The building was right in the end stages of preparation for the annual degree show, so it seems like this was a horrendous, horribly destructive accident.

Yeah, the exploding projector setting fire to nearby expanding foam is what's being reported on the news here.

Plus, it was a working art school - full of tubes, tins and cans of paint, brush cleaner, turps, and the like, not to mention the fact that so much of the fixtures and fittings, like most of the staircases and the aforementioned library, were wood; it was a much more flammable building than most.
posted by Len at 12:55 PM on May 23

Jesus Christ, what a damn shame. Bonehead and I made a pilgrimage to that building and a number of other McIntosh buildings while visiting Glasgow in 2011. It was gorgeous, inside and out. I hope they are able to rebuild in a way that preserves at least some of the iconic beauty of the original.
posted by LN at 1:08 PM on May 23

Fuck. Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:08 PM on May 23

I am completely unartistic, but one of my friends invited me to her degree show there, and everyone was really cool to a rank outsider. I'm glad nobody was injured, because I bet they will find a way to make it again, and make it better. Or at least new and original, without replacing CRM. I'm sad about the building, though.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:10 PM on May 23

God damn it.
What a terrible, terrible loss.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 1:10 PM on May 23

A terrible loss.

I live a couple hundred metres from this building. I walk past it all the time, and finally took a tour of it recently. It was (and hopefully will be again) a beautiful and influential building.

There have been stunned locals and students staring and sometimes crying down the end of my block all day, looking up toward the fire.
posted by magicicada at 1:34 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]

Now saying "Fire service say 90 % of building viable and 70% contents safe incl many student works" thats way better than it appeared 8 hours ago
posted by stuartmm at 1:37 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]

Firefighters battling the blaze at the iconic Macintosh Building in Glasgow City Centre have prevented the destruction of both the structure and the majority of its contents.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service crews are continuing work to fully extinguish the fire and save artworks.

With the incident under control indications are the firefighters' efforts have ensured more than 90 per cent of the structure is viable and protected up to 70 per cent of the contents - including many students' work.

I'm crying with relief.
posted by rtha at 1:40 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]

THANK YOU, 26.2 - I was looking for that!
posted by bird internet at 2:07 PM on May 23

I'm crying with relief.

posted by scody at 2:17 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]

posted by octobersurprise at 2:24 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Such a gorgeous edifice, a true cathedral for artists. I'm happy that the firefighters have managed to save a good portion of the structure and contents.
posted by theartandsound at 2:34 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

oh no!
posted by R. Mutt at 3:21 PM on May 23

oh no!
posted by R. Mutt at 18:21 on May 23 [+] [!]
I saw what you did there ...
posted by scruss at 3:25 PM on May 23

posted by acb at 4:10 PM on May 23

Let's hope that a recovery comparable to the Windsor Castle fire is possible.
posted by dhartung at 4:11 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]

It's great things have been saved - I think long term this might turn out to be the best thing that's happened to them for a while - I think they're going to get a lot stronger because of this instead of sliding into becoming an irrelevant cash cow and being merged with some godforsaken university.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:09 PM on May 23

posted by HypotheticalWoman at 5:25 PM on May 23

Oh no. From a purely selfish perspective I'm incredibly pissed off that its a building I've always dreamed of seeing but hadn't yet managed too. But from the perspective of world heritage this is just a devastating blow. CRM is one of the true greats, despite the calendar and greeting card companies's efforts to turn him into Mr. Cutesy Design man. This is just a staggering loss to Western art and architectural history.
posted by yoink at 5:35 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

Oh dear tapdancing christ on a cross, this is heartbreaking. I am crossing all of my appendages in the hope that most of the interiors have been preserved or can be repaired. The loss of the library's contents gives me an infinitely sinking feeling.

posted by LMGM at 11:05 PM on May 23

I'm not too knowledgeabe about GSA's library in particular, but most big/important libraries keep their most precious books/manuscripts/etc in seperate/more secure parts of the library, some even in fireproof walk-in safes. (Some libraries even have halon damping for these things). I'm still waiting to find out what has been lost from the GSA library - whether the stock destroyed or damaged was in the main fairly replaceable, or not.

This won't be much comfort for the students whose equally irreplaceable work has been lost, though (some of it may be originated from offsite digital files, though), nor for architecture buffs who'll miss the original.

Is it too soon to start thinking about what their options are recovery-wise? This is one occasion where I feel a more or less identical facsimile ought to be installed (with better wiring & maybe some 21st century information amenities quietly plumbed-in). I'm still waiting on the first proper assessments of damage and loss to come through, who knows what might still be okay/restorable/clean-uppable?
posted by aesop at 12:44 AM on May 24

I've also got a question: what happens to the students whose degree show work was destroyed?
posted by Chutzler at 9:40 AM on May 24

I helped set up a degree show last year and if you didn't use at least one projector you were the exception. I wonder if these things should have mini automatic fire extinguishers (powder in a bag that explodes at fire temperatures) designed into them or what?
posted by yoHighness at 12:18 PM on May 24

I am a graduate student at GSA, so I have been following Twitter and the press on this story since yesterday afternoon. There have been a couple of press releases and updates for students and staff today which answer some of the pressing questions we all have.

The bad news, as mentioned above, is that the library has been destroyed. There is an image here of the devastation.

The good news, is that both the Mackintosh museum (image here) and archives are safe, and that the library will be rebuilt again with similar materials. Fire service estimates are that 90% of the building's structure is viable, and 70% of the interior has been saved. The damage has been contained to the West of the building.

Students and staff are not to return to the school buildings until May 30th. Graduating students have been asked not to continue with their work, and assessments will be made according to what is available. Presumably those whose work was destroyed will be graded according to previous work, but that is my own speculation.
posted by veids at 12:30 PM on May 24 [4 favorites]

Also, there is a Mackintosh building fire fund for those who wish to donate.
posted by veids at 12:33 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]

veids, thanks for the update (what incredible work from the fire fighters!), and for the link to the rebuilding fund. I can only imagine how painful this is for everyone associated with the GSA.
posted by scody at 1:16 PM on May 24

Due to one of the most astonishingly intelligent and professional pieces of strategy by the fire services, they succeeded in protecting the vast majority of the building, apparently by forming a human wall of fire-fighters up the west end of the main staircase and containing the fire.
Between this work and the work to contain the San Diego wildfires, I have never been more in love with and in awe of firefighters.
posted by 26.2 at 2:02 PM on May 24 [3 favorites]

posted by mumimor at 2:09 PM on May 24

Thank heavens most of it survived.

But losing the library? Gah.
posted by aroweofshale at 5:42 PM on May 24

posted by klausness at 4:25 PM on May 25

This is tragic - add me to the list of people who's always wanted to see this.

I will remain hopeful, though. I mean, they rebuilt La Fenice in Venice, so I want to believe they can rebuild this too, at least to some degree.
posted by dnash at 7:12 PM on May 26

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